Saturday, 18 August 2012

The Bob Graham

Journey’s Start. The rise and fall of pain. Climb up the mountain, relax down the other side. Contractions come and go. The birth transcends all that I have felt before. And I am only looking on. If Sally’s body through will and love and instinct alone can birth a baby, what can my body do? What are my limits that I have not stretched or even contemplated? What can I do?
Triathlons Helvellyn, Wensleydale, Coniston Old Man, Alpe D’huez, The Fred Whitton, The Big Woody Ironman completed. Significant but not limit stretching.
The Bob Graham.
Let me tell you about my Bob Graham…
Mo kicks for home. I hunch inside the car for a final lap of nerve and steel. Roars ring out from cars around the centre and tears and smiles fall and rise together. The games are nearly over. I hope to provide a fitting end tomorrow to a fortnight like no other.  As good a start to an adventure as I could wish but all is not quite as it seems. My good lucks and goodbyes hold within them the promise of a dream achieved but not the steel and drive I ought to hold. I feel undone.
Start: Saturday 11th August 2012 20:00, clockwise.
Clear and calm up Skiddaw, no recce splits except from base to summit to rely on. 10 minutes up and steady pace by Jason feels good. But still I am not right.
Great Calva comes and goes through mud and bog, a minute neither here nor there.
Clag and dark descend across the river and we ascend too high, too left. We find the ridge and descend Halls Fell.
Threlkeld sees us neither up nor down except in body, mind and spirit. My foot tells the tale of hours run and blisters under heel. My dad is there to cheer me on and rummage for requests in bags unlabelled. I feel flat and prolong my stop too long before the next leg starts afresh.
Clough Head’s an age. Where are you summit? What tricks are these? Steve leads on a steady pace but still I cannot follow. To stop would be relief, frustration ended but begun again redoubled.
Great Dodd more minutes lost. My head now focussing on negatives that everywhere I look I see.
Haemorrhaging time on every climb seems to be the order. A minute here and there on little hills and five to ten on larger climbs.
This is going to be a long night.
Head down. Losing time and will. They pass me by, I come and go. Poor Steve who sees the worst of me, pity his ears to hear me moan.
Blink. Blink. Dark. Blink. Blink. Dark. Blink. Blink. Dark. Dark. Dark. Dark.
A borrowed head torch now on lowered head. My own away and impotent, my newly borrowed light illuminates my face but not much else. At least Steve can now still see my tortured face.
No more. No more. No more.
Fairfield summit gained in clag and now my mind’s a pace. Choose from wide open spaces or somewhere cairns and surely now a choice awaits.
I have long given up on finishing in 24. How do I tell these brave new folk the game is up? Do I tell them now or wait until we’re under way to let them know I’m finishing but out of time?
Trudge. Gloom. Trudge. Gloom. Clear skies. Mild. Amazing views.
 I’m told.
Mutter. Mumble. How could I have ever thought this was within my grasp? Mutter. Mumble.
Nicoll calmly listens then dismisses all that’s gone as past.
Gibbons feeds me ginger mascarpone rolls.
 A ray of light. A double check. The game is on again.
 I think.
Windswept friends appear bearing gifts atop Rossett Pike. Wild camping in the shelter of the cairn Kerry and Rick have sustenance to share. I know I’ve time to make but linger a while to contemplate the sacrifices of others towards my cause.
Bowfell keeps on giving. Esk Pike less so. Great End I see for the first time, but not the views. Ill Crag is bagged and on and on. My calculating mind cannot work out the numbers but by Mickledore my mind is set against Yewbarrow still to come.
A chance encounter with a stranger, strange. Contemplating life with shorts no more and musing on his next move to follow through.
Lords Rake and West Wall gain yet more time and scree slides bring a smile and lift my spirits once again.
Anne and Pete and Mick provide the healing feeding hands and words to go. Prepare for battle on the slopes. Set yourself to this beat of pacers numbered one to four. No time to slip or lose.
One final chance to get this done.
Nicoll and Gibbons carry on and we’re joined by Iain and Graeme. Head down, brim wide, 50 minutes of a 4 step march. No time lost, but none gained. How can that be? March on to Red Pike. Again still losing precious minutes despite my ever quickening efforts.
14 minutes down. I will not lose this by 14 minutes. Rather the slow death of hours.
Catastrophe. Graeme twists his ankle setting me a pace to follow. “Go on, Go on”, he implores and that I do. The pace taken up by Gibbons and renewed. Attop Pillar the deficit is three. I will not let this beat me. I will not lose my grip now I am in control, I have it in my charge and I will lead it where I want to go.
There is no other time but now. There is no other place than here. There is no other one but me.
 I will make this happen on my terms.
Kirk Fell.
Great Gable.
I have truly found what I am looking for. I have found my heart and mind. I can make myself go on when all seems lost. I can dull the sound of screaming limbs and force my will upon them to raise the pace again, again, again.
Honister no rest but on and up and on and up.
Steve and Gange apply the pressure, feed and water me but I am in a whole new place now. The last three tops and foolishly I roar my defiance too soon. I drop down to the tarmac with my trusty shoes and they speak to me of home. Expertly met by Kerry and Rick with words and thoughts to raise my spirits, to let me know my family are around the corner, cheering.
The home straight is 4 miles.
4 miles, with time a plenty any other day.
30 minutes and still 2 miles to go. What new madness lies within the torture of these seconds? Pleas of help amid my tears of hope and desperation. After all that’s gone before I have no time to give my mind or legs a break from this relentless pace. I cannot lose my focus now. I cannot lose my focus now.
I know this bridge, this path, these cobbles.
Belief. Finally belief that I have reached further than my grasp and found a way to make the difference count.
To celebrate, a sprint.
To finish on a sprint and know myself to be on equal terms, today at least.
Finish: Sunday 12th August 2012 19:49
The games are over.
I will be back. I did not make this journey on my own but I took my strength from it and added it to others. Running across the fells, above my limits with changing groups of friends past and future I know myself to be a better person for it.
From birth to journeys end. When babies are birthed in all their natural wonder how can any challenge hold a candle? Push on and on, what more might I aspire to now?
I think I’ll run a while to clear my head…

Cast in order of appearance: John Parkin Jason Feaney John Parkin (Snr) Steve Fry Andy Nicoll Andy Gibbons Kerry + Rick Gilchrist Mick Watson Anne + Pete Jebb Iain Taylor Graeme McTavish Andrew Gange Kerry Watson Iris Ward Sally + Maria + Louis Parkin

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